Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Tuesday Worldfarts

It's about 8:30-something in the evening as I type these opening lines for tonight's Worldfarts, and I still don't know what my teaching schedule is going to be like tomorrow. I received a call from the agency boss around 7:30 or so, promising that she'd call again before 10PM to confirm my schedule with me. This seems to indicate, at the very least, that I am indeed teaching tomorrow, which is a good thing, since we hominids have to earn money.

A quick housekeeping note before I inundate you with more bad haiku: you may have noticed some subtractions and additions to the Koreablogroll. First, a hearty welcome to the newcomers (none of whom is, in truth, a newcomer)-- I've blogrolled you because I should have blogrolled you a while back, or because I dropped you for some odd reason (lovely, lovely shrooms) and only just caught the oversight.

Next, while I'm at it, I should explain my blogrolling "policy," such as it is.

I want my blogroll to consist, first and foremost, of daily or almost-daily reads. You're not merely on the blogroll because I like your blog; you're on there because I actually read you. I do not engage in link-whoring, even though this would be great for marketing and Big Cheese status at Truth Laid Bear. If you're a link whore, don't take my attitude personally; it's not meant to be a judgement against your sluttish ways, you Queen of Sloppy Seconds.

Because my blogroll's gotten as long as it has, I've become more and more hesitant to stick names on there, and to be honest, I don't much like being asked for a mutual link these days (no offense to the folks who've asked, but I've probably blogrolled you, anyway, because you have good blogs, so kwi ch'o bi ch'ing asa horu!).

What it comes down to is this: I'm not a symmetrical linker. I link to people who don't link back to me (It Makes a Difference to the Sheep and Ryan's Lair, for example), and it's no big deal. People link to me, and I don't link back to them, and there, too, I hope the asymmetry is no big deal. My opinion of your blog shouldn't matter all that much, anyway: I get a bit more than 100 unique hits a day which, in the larger scheme of things, isn't very much. I'm small beans. If I haven't linked to you, who gives a shit? And lastly, because there are so many damn good blogs out there, the lack of a link isn't an indictment of your blog: you may be among the Damn Good.

End sermon. And now: Worldfart haiku.

Chinese government
like a man who coughs mid-shit
clamps anus on blogs

Thai pork for breakfast
secret ingredient was
Garlicky richness

[NB: the above is an example of "found poetry," a term I recently learned. It refers to crafting a poem out of phrases you find in other texts. A great example of "intertextuality." You PoMo folks getting stiff nipples yet? I knew you would. Let me throw some more PoMo terms at you: how about dissemination? or différance? or aporia? or semiurgy? or simulacra? Are your nipples about to vibrate right off your chesticles? Let's cool you down, then: how about the term that scares all Derridean postmodernists away: TRANSCENDENTAL SIGNIFIED??]

I have no courage
Hello Kitty ate my balls
so I won't do THIS

Adam on Taiwan:
Chinese prick-waving's a joke
and Conrad agrees

also at Conrad's
pictures of a sexy chick
no surprises here

Dan Darling on Clarke
things aren't always as they seem
"...ain't that interesting."

Naked Villainy!
No, I'm not joking.

[NB: The individual permalinks to various NV posts might not be working, so I've provided a link to the blog itself. Start with "Just a Few Brief Comments to the Foreign Minister" and scroll upwards.]

religious studies
run by Nazi stooges! Ach!
ist das Wissenschaft?

sadly, Tacitus
shaves with Occam's Razor, but
damn, it just won't cut

level-headed views
was Iraq a distraction?
go see Macallan

ah, a language rant!
yes, for once I must agree
with Burgess-Jackson!

[NB: I used to be a holy terror in the online writer's forums because I'm a language Nazi myself. I haven't done a language rant on this blog yet, and I've wondered why. Then it dawned on me: blogging isn't the same thing as participating in an online writer's forum. It always amused me when writers, stung by my rants (which were never aimed at specific people, but always at specific faux pas), would shoot back with lame and petulant replies about how they were writing for entertainment, not to be absolutely perfect. I think they were deliberately misunderstanding my position: in a writer's forum, which is about writing, people should be doing their damnedest to write well. People who suck should be ready to hear some corrections, and even we language Nazis need to be ready to take our own medicine when we make mistakes. No one's immune, after all, but there are meaningful differences between writers who tool along heedlessly and those who take the time to produce disciplined work.

For myself, I'll go over a post even after it's been stuck on the blog, and will correct mistakes as I find them, and I find them daily. I consider my blogs to be drafts; I imagine that everything I slap up here is potential material for a book or magazine article. Does it take some nerve to think that way? Yes, I suppose it does, but I also think it helps the writing. If you see a post I've just slapped up, then come back to it twenty or thirty minutes later, you might notice some slight changes-- corrected typos, patched-up locutions, etc. The process never stops, and maybe that's a sign of neurotic perfectionism. But self-expression is something I want to do well, and while some people may feel it's better to concentrate on product rather than process, I don't think those things are separable in good writing.

But going back to the language Nazi thing. I agree with Buddhist process ontology, in which you don't find foundations, and you see phenomena as dynamic. English isn't a reality written in cosmic stone. So when Keith Burgess-Jackson declares, qua fellow language Nazi, that the plural of "dwarf" is "dwarfs" and not "dwarves," I take this with a grain of salt. Or when he says that "forte" must be pronounced "fort" and not "for-tay," as many of us say, I just roll my eyes.

Languages change. Very often, this happens because a bunch of people start making the same "mistake," and the mistake propagates until it reaches some sort of threshold, beyond which the mistake becomes "common usage." Ultimately, I'm not a die-hard language Nazi: it seems silly to side with linguistic liberals or conservatives in an absolutistic manner. Conservatives have a point when they contend that some "standard" form of the language is necessary for us to understand each other and express ourselves clearly. Liberals have a point when they say that treating a grammar book as a set of absolute rules is absurd. Grammar books, dictionaries, and other language references function simultaneously as authorities and as reflections of the current state of the language. If you think this isn't true, then you have to explain why the Webster's Dictionary of the early 1900s looks so different from Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

Consider some examples of sins that grate on my ear but are bound to take over the language:

1. I feel badly that...

From the orthodox point of view, the verb "feel" is functioning as a copula (linking verb), so what comes next should be a predicate adjective, NOT an adverb modifying "feel"! I bash my head against the wall whenever I see this, but so many people engage in this sin that it's little use ranting about it.

The verb "to be" isn't the only verb that can function as a copula. Consider the difference between these two sentences:

a. The plant grew tall. ("tall" modifies "plant"-- the verb "grew" is a copula here; the plant doesn't "grow in a tall manner"-- that's just idiotic)
b. The plant grew fast. ("fast" modifies "grew"-- the verb "grew" is NOT a copula here)

And you need to be careful with "to be":

a. He is good.
b. He is well.

BEWARE!! In both cases, the verb functions as a copula. "Well" in (b) IS NOT AN ADVERB-- it's an adjective describing one's state of health!

"To feel bad" for someone is to feel pity, sorrow, etc. for that person. "To feel badly" would refer, technically, to a dysfunction in one's ability to feel (in a tactile or emotional sense), but "feeling badly" is an awkward way to describe that condition. "Nerve damage" or "post-traumatic stress disorder" might be a little better.

(Jesus, I shouldn't have started this rant-- I could go on for hours.)

Another example that grates on me:

2. Between you and I...

If only I had a gun...

What sucks immense donkey dick about the above is that the problem is so fucking easy to correct. After a preposition, you have the object of the preposition. That means your pronoun, if you're using a pronoun, needs to be in the objective case. Not he-- him. Not she-- her. Not I-- MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

He gave it to me. ("me" is the object of the preposition "to")
I placed the gun between her and him. ("her" and "him" are the objects of "between")
This is between you and me. ("you" and "me" = objects of "between")


One rule I routinely ignore isn't really a rule anymore, but people insist on perpetuating this myth: "You can't end a sentence with a preposition." This has been bullshit for many years, mainly thanks to "petrified expressions"-- i.e., expressions whose word order you can't change. For instance, the classic violation:

That is not something up with which I will put!

No one, except someone fixated on the "rule" about prepositions, would ever make a sentence like the above. "Put up with" is a petrified expression. Check a modern resource on this point, not a reference from the 1960s.

I'm also an enemy of cutesy Internet locutions:

"yanno" instead of "you know"
"butt-nekkid" instead of the original "buck naked"
"nevermind" instead of "never mind"
"underway" instead of "under way"

And as KBJ's post points out, there is indeed a difference between "everyday" (an adjective) and "every day" (a phrase functioning as an adverb of time/frequency).

I fuck sheep every day.
(adverb of time/frequency modifying "fuck")

What? You've never done that? Why, that's a pretty everyday thing for me. Try it.
(adjective modifying "thing")

Yes, I could go on for hours and hours and hours... KBJ's post opened the floodgates.

One last gripe:

The whole "punctuation and end-quote" thing bothers me, because people don't seem to remember which country they're in.

In British English, your end-quote goes INSIDE; the period goes OUTSIDE.

He said, 'Let's fuck a sheep until it explodes'.

In America:

He said, "Let's fuck a sheep until it explodes."

I wish to hell that someone would teach this to Steven Den Beste, one of the most notorious violators of the above rule, but Den Beste has already warned people not to correct his English, so I guess we'll just have to shoot him.

Wow, that felt good: my very first language rant on this blog. It makes me look even more sanctimonious than usual, I'm sure, but if you resent the rant and don't plan on changing your ways, well... bend over, butt-puppy. I've got a rifle that fires dildos.

By the way, if you're going to be even more orthodox than I am and hope to catch me on a grammar/style/usage point, you'd better cite a source for your correction. KBJ's rants re: "dwarfs" and the pronunciation of "forte" aren't supported by the dictionary. I ignore those rants, even though I wholeheartedly agree with him about other things.]

Glenn at "Hi. I'm Black!"
also has a language rant
cornROWS, not cornROLLS!

Allahu Akbar!
Paradise gets a new guest
heavenly pussy

TEACHING SCHEDULE UPDATE: It's almost 11PM now, as I finish this post up. I got a call at 10:10 this evening, just as I was typing the beginning of the language rant, and now I know that I have at least one class from 11:00 to 11:50. Hooray! Apparently, I find out the rest of my schedule just before 11AM tomorrow, as I'm supposed to meet my boss. This doesn't exactly help lesson planning and curriculum design, but lucky for me, I'm the type to over-prepare for lessons. Between you and I, there won't be any problems tomorrow, so don't feel badly for me.

It occurs to me that another myth to explode is the "don't begin a sentence with a conjunction" myth. The only time it's important to follow that rule is in academe. Even there, it's not an absolute. And you know this.

[LANGUAGE RANT UPDATE: For those keeping count, an hour has passed and I've caught about five or six mistakes in this post, some of them pretty damn embarrassing, and many of them were hiding in plain sight inside the language rant itself! So if you were planning on hurling a "Fuck off, Mr. Perfect!" my way, you can take comfort in my imperfection. Besides, I never implied I was perfect-- just more conscientious (and perhaps more linguistically neurotic) than the average hominid.]


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